After a few days with friends in Madrid, a quick 1hr 40min journey took me to Valencia. Opting to take the short 20-minute walk to the apartment I’d booked, I was greeted with huge swarms of people and big bangs. The kind of bang that if I heard it at home, there’d be serious panic, but here….well, no-one even flinched. Slightly unsure what was going on, I made it to the apartment and asked the landlord what was going. Las Fallas! I couldn’t believe my luck…I’d wanted to see this festival for years and had forgotten about it when I booked my stay in Valencia. It was just coincidence and great timing that I was here at the same time!
A super early start with my friends heading to the airport at early o’clock had wiped me out, and I was so tired. My first solo travel decision: it’d be best to drop my bag off at the apartment and just have a wander around to get a feeling for Valencia. I ended up near the shopping area, and of course had to do a bit of shopping – it’d be rude not to, right? I was actually looking for a new pair of shoes as my current options were either sandals or a blister-inducing pair. No luck, so it was back towards the apartment, stopping en route to grab some food for dinner, before turning in early. As my first day of solo travel, I had worried I’d absolutely hate being on my own, or feel overwhelmed about being in a new city on my own. As it turns out, I was already loving it, and couldn’t wait for tomorrow to get out and explore properly!
The joy of travelling solo, as I was slowly discovering, is that I was putting no one out with my choices. I started my first full day in Valencia with a well-needed lay in, and enjoyed a slow morning getting ready. So chilled, in a stunning apartment that I was so lucky to have found super last minute, I just sat and watched cartoons in Spanish while doing my hair.
When I finally dragged myself out of the apartment, I made my way to Mercat Central, just at the end of the street I was staying on, and perused the different stalls. Treating myself, I got some dried fruit from one of the stalls, and after looking around a bit more sat outside in the sun to enjoy the dried strawberries and hibiscus. Dried strawberries – yum. Dried hibiscus – hmm, still undecided.
Now to see some churches! I wandered through the back streets of Valencia and stumbled upon a tour group of the older generation and decided to just follow where they went. Good choice, because I ended up in St Nicholas church and found the origin of Santa giving gifts. Fascinating, and one of the reasons I love travelling so much!
As it neared 2pm, it was time to head to the town square to watch the fireworks that happen each day. The fireworks alone would be loud, but as the square is surrounded by high buildings, the sound echoes and is so so loud, it even made my clothes shake! I was starting to find out just how much Spaniards like noise! Heading back to the apartment for a quiet 5 minutes while the crowds dispersed, I took the opportunity to enjoy some lunch before making my way to the cathedral. Good tour of the cathedral, saw a cup that is claimed to be the cup Jesus drank from at the last supper, and also a dead, shrivelled arm from the Saint of Valencia. No, I’m not sure why they just have an arm, but it’s fully on display and no longer looks how you’d imagine an arm would. I love travel.
What’s a church visit without a tower to climb? Just 207 steps and I was at the top, where I slightly regretted the decision to not have my hair tied up as the wind whipped it back and forth. Heading back down the super tight stairs, I’m sure I made some friends as I tried not to fall. A quick walk around to the back of the cathedral to see a different side to it, before moving on to the next stop – Portages de Serrans, via the longest route ever because I got a tiny bit lost and ended up taking the ‘scenic route’ through the park.
Seeing it from outside I could tell there were going to be stairs, and after the church tower I’d already climbed and the epic detour, I was getting a bit tired. But, not sure if I’d have the opportunity again, I went for it and climbed to the top of the building. It was most definitely worth it, as I’d happened to time my visit with the sun setting, giving the building and the city the most amazing glow. I really love the golden hour! Making the most of the light, I snapped as many photos as I felt like, not having to worry about someone getting bored of me taking so many. Yep, I was really starting to get on board with this whole solo travel business!
As the other people started to leave, I saw one of the employees coming and locking up certain areas. Not wanting to get stuck for the night, I made my way down and back in the direction of the apartment. As I wandered along, I noticed a free exhibition in one of the buildings. Not one to say no to a freebie, I poked my head in and found some really old artefacts and some interesting old government areas. Not really sure what it was all about to be honest, but it was interesting nonetheless.
As a first time solo traveller, I was still finding my feet with being alone in another country and having the confidence to not worry so much. Despite this, as it got darker and a bit colder, I decided now would be a good time to grab some dinner from the supermarket and head back to the apartment, stopping for an ice cream wave on the way.
First full day of solo travel – absolutely loved it!
I am a very motivated individual, but mornings and I don’t really get on too well and so it can take me quite a while to get the oomph up to get ready and get out. After another lazy morning watching Spanish cartoons – which I tried to justify was ok as I’m learning Spanish – I finally made it out and strolled straight to the market for another look around. Not really fancying anything, I thought I’d try my luck at a cafe, and decided to venture out to an area I hadn’t explored yet. After walking for a few minutes, I realised there’s probably a reason that there weren’t too many tourists in this area, and had the feeling that it was a somewhat dodgy neighbourhood.
Thankfully it was totally fine, but I made my way back to the market to celebrate with a couple of pastries and an empanada for later. Any excuse! Wandering back through the neighbourhood I’d passed through yesterday, I took a seat on some steps for a while to soak up the sun, and saw lots of people heading in to a building. Ever nosy, I went to have a look and found Lloyta, where I grabbed a ticket for a quick tour and then joined the throngs of people making their way to the town square. It was time for Mascletas again! Grabbing a pair of sunglasses on the way, I was soon stood in amongst the thousands of people squeezed in to the square, and took a moment to reflect. I don’t like crowds, they make me really uneasy, and yet here I was, surrounded by thousands of people all packed in, stood very tightly amongst each other, and I was actually happy to be there. What’s happening to me?!
Not much time for reflection, as the bangs quickly started up and echoed around the square for the next 5 minutes. Spanish people really do love noise! Making another lunch stop at the apartment while the crowds dispersed, I made a plan to head out to the Science and Arts area with the buildings Valencia is famous for, stopping off at another market en route. Taking much longer than I anticipated, I arrived at the Science and Arts area after a 45 minute-walk, and revelled in the architecture! Absolutely loved it, and after wandering around and possibly being in the background of a news broadcast – I’m basically famous – I took a seat in the sun to refresh before heading back. After being attacked by the smallest, cutest dog ever, I made my way back with the intention of visiting the bullring.
Part of Las Fallas involves people randomly setting off loud bangers in the street, and I still wasn’t quite used to it, so jumped several times on my walk back through the neighbourhoods. Nearing the bullring, I saw more big crowds and could hear lots of noise. Excited to see what else was going on as part of the festival, I actually stumbled upon an International Women’s Day parade. Thinking the crowd was big, I watched the people marching for a while, then made my way off to do a bit of shopping. After being in the shops for over an hour, I expected that the march would have moved on, but the people were still passing the initial point after all this time – I have no idea how many people were marching but suffice to say there were LOADS.
Back to the apartment, I had an early night in anticipation of my early train tomorrow, and also booked accommodation in Granada, hoping to not leave everything as last minute as I had so far. With the bangs still going off, I went to bed wondering if I’d ever get to used to them!